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PR Reporting: What to Do When Your Results Are Less Than Stellar

Michelle Garrett

Feb 4, 2020

It’s happened. You planned and executed what you thought was going to be a stellar PR campaign. You crossed all the I’s and dotted all the T’s, only to find out that, guess what? There’s no way around it. Your results aren’t what you expected. The campaign flopped.

Now, it’s time to present the results to the client. Be it an internal or external client, you may have a struggle ahead of you.

So, what can you do to save face? First, don’t panic. You’re not the first (or the last) this will happen to. There are some best practices involved in presenting less than all-star results.

Deliver good news first – but tell the truth

First, start with the positive. Even in a failed effort, there will be something positive to include. So, start with that, say experts.

But don’t shy away from painting a less than rosy picture, says Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, and a pioneer in the field of measurement for three decades.

“What senior leaders tell me constantly is that they simply don’t believe most PR and social media reports that always show that everything is successful.”

Metrics - desk - office

What did you learn?

Then, talk about what you learned. Even when the results are poor, you will have learned a lot about what didn’t work, all of which can be used in future efforts.

“The truth is that management doesn’t want to know the good news—they want to know what action items they can take away from your research,” says Paine. “So I always put the bad news in the summary. That way, they come away with ideas they can act upon.”

Go to your data

After you’ve started with the positives then shared the bad news, take a look at the data to learn more about what worked and find areas that could be improved.

“Analytics are your superpower, but there are so many problems with how people use data,” said Paine.

It’s not enough to simply gather data. Data without analysis can be meaningless. What is the data telling you? Can you determine any patterns that may help you improve in the future?

More PR firms are looking into bringing in analysts to help decipher the data. How do these analysts work as part of the PR or marketing team?

“Marketing data analysts help make sense of the data by digesting numbers into fuel for marketing efforts,” says Storie Ledger, Meltwater’s marketing data analyst. “It’s important to remember that marketing isn’t always about originality and creativity. Sometimes it’s just about the statistics, the numbers, and the gritty hard facts.”

For more interesting, general data about PR check out our blog about the most interesting PR Statistics.

Take a look at your media list

One more potential issue may lie with your media list.

“Another major problem is that too many  ‘Top Tier’ media lists are based on what reporters you work with most often or who covers you most frequently, not what media outlets are most influential on your target audience,” says Paine.

“When I do reports, I look at things like who is quoted, and then I sort all the quotes based on how many messages they contain or the sentiment,” continued Paine. “I also encourage folks to define sentiment and what a ‘good’ article is, based on what drives customer behavior.”

Use media monitoring to help

Media monitoring tools can help brands discern what the media is saying about them but look at the data with a critical eye.

“Media monitoring is a necessity in these days, but it needs to include both social and traditional media,” says Paine. “You need it to protect your brand, but too often monitoring reports only include the good news or stories that were ‘placed’ and don’t include competitive mentions and things that might be under the radar.”

Measure the right things

And what other advice do the experts have to offer, as you move forward from the failed campaign to your next public relations push?

“I think the purpose of most PR programs is to influence the consideration and preference and opinions of your target audience, and very few actual measure THAT,” Paine said. “Mostly they measure the degree to which their activities result in a placement that may or may not influence anybody.”